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Using children and animals in a novel…!

Is it a good idea?

Who was it that said that you should never work with animals or children?

If I’m honest, whoever it was, they were probably right.

However they do exist in real life. They’re in almost every family and with that in mind I feel that they should be included in our books.

There are different generations within all of my books. The first book I wrote was House of Secrets, where I created a three-year-old Poppy, the daughter of my heroine and her puppy Buddy, (a naughty but playful springer spaniel…)

I mean, come on… how many little girls wanted a puppy for Christmas…?

Give them a purpose?

I needed Poppy to be young and innocent. She had to be young enough to be affected by Liam. I needed Madeleine (her mother) to feel the need to protect her. The reader to feel empathy for her. And last but not least, I her to come over as vulnerable. If Poppy had been a baby, she wouldn’t have been able to interact, nor would she have been able to to create a link between Madeleine and Bandit, who immediately feels the need to look out for her and keep her safe.

Buddy had been a recent gift from Liam, Madeleine’s former fiancé. He’d been bought for Poppy as a bribe, after he’d shouted at her. I chose a springer spaniel because I needed a puppy that would learn fast and after owning spaniels myself, I know how intelligent (and crazy) they can be. I also knew that teaching a spaniel the command ‘speak’ was simple. Initially, Madeleine teaches Buddy to speak to earn food, a way of trying to get Poppy to eat. I also knew that the command ‘speak’ would come in very useful later on in the book and used this to my advantage.

Are they plot muppets or not?

It’s very important that your sub-characters don’t turn into ‘plot muppets.’ When your heroine has a child, she has one all the time. They’re always there and can’t just disappear because the scene doesn’t need them. If the child isn’t in the scene, they have to have a good reason why not. Maybe they’re sleeping, away at nursery, or school. Either way, they need to be looked after by someone, or you need to find a safe place where they might be.

It’s similar for the pet, a dog can’t disappear just because your scene doesn’t need it. As your novel progresses it’s important to remember that the dog needs walking, feeding and playing with, everyday. Even if there’s only a mention of, ‘Look at the time, Buddy’ll be platting his legs if I don’t take him out soon.’ (Like the child, you can’t just allow them to disappear without trace.)

What makes a good supporting character?

And of course this is only my opinion.

Each character in a novel has to be there for a reason. They need to have a purpose. Poppy’s reason was to create a bridge between Madeleine and Liam, she’s scared of him, barely eats. Because of how cruel Liam is, her mother has a natural need to protect her. She’s also instrumental in bringing Madeleine and Bandit together, she creates the softer parts of the book and shows Madeleine’s maternal side to it’s full.

And Buddy, well… he’s instrumental in the novel too and a character in his own right. But, you need to read House of Secrets to find out what happens next….

Wrea Head Country House Hotel, Scarborough http://www.wrea-head-hotel.co.uk/

Wrea Head Country House Hotel, Scarborough http://www.wrea-head-hotel.co.uk/

Just for you… an exert from the novel which shows both Poppy and Buddy in action..!

‘Oh, Poppy, come on. Don’t cry. It’s not your fault. Mummy should have known better.’ She pulled the child away from her for a moment and stared into her tear-stained face. ‘I know, tomorrow morning, you remind Mummy and we’ll scrub-a-dub you all over until you sparkle like a princess.’ She watched as Poppy began to smile. ‘Come on, sweetheart. Let’s go and let Buddy in.’ Both glanced in the hallway mirror in a well-practiced manoeuvre, flicked their hair back simultaneously and laughed at one another, before running through the old Victorian terraced house, past the two rooms at the front and down the passage that led to the back room and the old kitchen that had long since seen better days.

Madeleine quickly placed Poppy on the floor and opened the back door where an excited Springer Spaniel puppy sat waiting.

Buddy jumped up and down. His tail wagged a hundred miles an hour and as soon as the opening was big enough, he burst in through the back door and straight into the arms of a waiting Poppy, who collapsed on the floor, giggling, as he licked, jumped and wagged his whole body excitedly.

Madeleine smiled. Poppy was so different when Liam wasn’t there. She was happier, playful and appeared to blossom in his absence. Whereas when he was home, she tended to sleep, play with teddy bears in her room or disappear to a quiet corner where she’d sit for hours playing with Buddy. It broke Maddie’s heart to see her daughter unhappy. But what could she do? She’d known moving in with Liam was a mistake but she’d had no choice. The block of flats that she lived in was being demolished. She’d been dating Liam for eight months and he had seemed the perfect boyfriend, loving to her and kind to Poppy, so when he suggested she move in with him, she’d agreed.

‘Look, Poppy, do you think Buddy wants his breakfast?’ she asked and Poppy started nodding enthusiastically.

Reaching for Buddy’s bowl, Maddie pulled a biscuit from the box, broke it with her fingers and crumbled the pieces into the ceramic dish. She then soaked it in milk before placing the bowl on the floor where Buddy immediately pounced, his nose disappearing deep within the dish as it began to rattle around the floor.

‘Would Poppy like some breakfast too?’ Madeleine asked hopefully, but knew what the answer would be. The immediate shake of Poppy’s head confirmed what she’d already thought. She’d noticed over the past two months that Poppy often refused food or only ate tiny amounts and Madeleine nodded her head in confirmation of what she’d been trying to avoid: the days that Poppy didn’t eat always seemed to coincide with Liam being mean to her and Madeleine knew what had to be done. She had no choice but to leave. She needed to take Poppy as far away from this environment as she could.

Madeleine pulled another biscuit from the box and knelt down on the floor. ‘Here, Poppy, watch Buddy eat his biscuits.’ She held the treat up in her hand and waited for Buddy to sit before her. ‘Buddy, speak.’ The puppy barked to order and both Poppy and Madeleine began to clap. ‘Good boy. See, Poppy, Buddy loves his breakfast. Do you think that you’d eat some lovely breakfast too?’ But once again Poppy shook her head, clasped her hand over her mouth and lay down on the kitchen floor.

Madeleine shrugged her shoulders. She had to get her daughter to eat and began searching the cupboards for something that might tempt her, but the cupboards were almost empty and she resigned herself to pushing a slice of bread in the toaster. Maybe she’d find a way to persuade Poppy to eat it.

Madeleine turned around and laughed as she caught sight of Poppy lying flat on her back on the kitchen floor, submerged in what was left of the milky cereal, giggling and squirming as Buddy pinned her to the floor, licking at every remnant he could find.

and finally

If you fancy reading any of my novels…. here are the Amazon links:

House of Secrets:

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2uBTEwQ

Kobo: https://tinyurl.com/y3mmqxwx

Blurb:

A woman on the run, a broken man and a house with a shocking secret …
Madeleine Frost has to get away. Her partner Liam has become increasingly controlling to the point that Maddie fears for her safety, and that of her young daughter Poppy. .
Desperation leads Maddie to the hotel owned by her estranged father – the extraordinarily beautiful Wrea Head Hall in Yorkshire. There, she meets Christopher ‘Bandit’ Lawless, an ex-marine and the gamekeeper of the hall, whose brusque manner conceals a painful past.
After discovering a diary belonging to a previous owner, Maddie and Bandit find themselves immersed in the history of the old house, uncovering its secrets, scandals, tragedies – and, all the while, becoming closer.
But Liam still won’t let go, he wants Maddie back, and when Liam wants something he gets it, no matter who he hurts …


What people are saying about House of Secrets:
I laughed, I cried, I gasped, I shouted – all out loud – which, to me, is the sign of a brilliant book. When I become so immersed that I lose the real world completely. And that is what this book did.Anne’s Book Corner.

House of Secrets is a gripping novel that kept me on the edge of my seat for several hours.Suze Lavender, Top 500 Reviewer

The last 10 years in the life of an author..!


I wasn’t going to write about my last decade, because even to me it sounds depressing, we’ve had just as much trauma, as success.

The problem is, because you keep smiling, because you keep working and trying to do your best, everyone thinks that life must be great.

When in fact, that isn’t always the case.

The beginning of the decade

Most of you know that I’d worked hard to become a scuba diving instructor, a sport/job that I absolutely loved. But, following a car accident that left me in considerable pain I found myself having no choice but to sell my scuba school. 

After working full time plus doing lesson plans, weekends away diving and numerous trips abroad each year. I suddenly found myself bored on an evening and weekend. Which is when I began to write. Writing had always been something I was going to do… when I had time. Well, there’s nothing like not being able to lift your arms above your waist to make you sit still for a while and my writing adventure began.

In 2013, I joined the RNA (Romantic Novelist Association) and entered my novel, then called Broken Jigsaw into the Festival of Romance New Talent Award. Astonishingly, my novel was shortlisted and I found myself attending the black tie event in Bradford. Unfortunately, I didn’t win. But the fact that I’d been shortlisted encouraged me to keep writing.

2014 was a horrendous year. 
Haydn snapped his achilleas and was unable to walk for almost six months without the aid of crutches. Seeing him this way completely broke me. And quite honestly, it was a year we were pleased to see the back of.

2015 I won Choc Lit’s Search for a Star competition with House of Secrets. I’d achieved my dream of becoming a published author. I began the York Afternoon Tea, now a huge success that has been taken on as an annual event by the RNA.

Then, The Fake Date (then called Revenge) was shortlisted for the Elizabeth Goudge Award) It was the boost I really needed and felt as though something had finally gone right.

Then, in 2016 I was looking forward to my debut novel House of Secrets being published. I’d already begun working on book 2, knowing that a second book would always be difficult and challenging. 
But then in February, while in the Caribbean, Haydn had the most horrendous accident and after falling, he completely detached his hamstring. We ended up spending nights in the local hospital, a nightmare I never want to repeat and again, I saw my husband in a wheelchair being carried up aircraft steps and taken through all the disability corridors at both the Dominican Republic and Philadelphia airport, (the only route to getting him back to England.) It’s times like this that you realise who your friends are and with just one or two exceptions (you know who you are) I quickly found out that if I wanted something done, it was down to me to do it. The house, the gardens, the shopping, cooking and working full time made it a tough year. People who I thought might offer some help, even if that had been to mow the lawns, didn’t. Every day for months was a struggle. Life for both of us will never be the same and again, I was very pleased to see the back of it.

2017 House of Secrets was shortlisted for the Joan Hessayon Award, another lovely trip to London. But with extensive pain in my shoulders, I found myself going to the doctors the day before the London award ceremony and begging him to give me cortisone injections, just so I could get dressed once I got there. I literally couldn’t dress myself and sobbed with the pain every single time I tried.
Tell me no Secrets was published and House of Christmas Secrets (book 3) had been written and The Fake Date was started. Having so much pain had meant that I sat a lot and writing was my escape.

My new found love of cruising….!

2018 saw The Fake Date was released and my website www.Lyndastacey.co.uk won The Writers Award for The Best Website. I was also shortlisted for the Australian Romance Reader Awards with Tell me no Secrets but with the ceremony being in Sydney, Australia…. I didn’t get to go.

2019 My fifth book, (who’d have believed I’d write five books)… Keeper of Secrets was published and I learned that I loved cruising. And I achieved another dream of being THAT author who got to stand in WHS Meadowhall with my banner and sell my books. What an amazing experience.

Here, at WHS, with my 3 wonderful godsons… A very happy day.!!

This year has been a strange one. I’ve got through my own private battles, again a lot of lessons were learned and I’ll go to bed tonight way before midnight and just hope that 2020 is a better year.

So many things have happened. All of this, while working full time as a Sales Director for a very successful office supplies company, www.intecoffice.co.uk
A company that I’m equally as proud of as I am all my books. 

My day job… being a Sales Director is both challenging and rewarding..!

During this time, I’ve met some of the most amazing people. 
I feel so very fortunate that authors who I used to read and admire, I can now call friends. I love you all… xx

So, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all my friends and family a very happy New Year from myself and Haydn x

Let’s raise a glass to the next decade. Let’s see how much more we can do. x

My new psychological thriller, THE FAKE DATE…!!

It really doesn’t feel that long since I announced that I’d won the Choc Lit Search for a Star competition, and now here I am announcing BOOK 4…. I have no idea how that happened, except for the fact that I love writing, I love it when readers enjoy my books and leave the most amazing reviews. So today, I’m absolutely delighted to reveal the cover of it, my new psychological thriller, THE FAKE DATE..!

The Fake Date

And of course, it’s now available for pre-order on https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07FM915Q2/

Release date: 18th September 2018

THE FAKE DATE

Nine hours and eleven minutes…

That’s how long it’s been since Ella Hope was beaten to within an inch of life and left for dead.

She lies, unable to move and praying for somebody to find her, as she counts down the minutes and wonders who could have hated her so much to have hurt her so badly.

Was it the man she went on a date with the previous evening, the man linked to the deaths of two other women? Or somebody else, somebody who wants her out of the picture so much they’re willing to kill?

Whoever it is, she will find them … all she has to do first is survive..!

 

 

Sending love and hugs to all my friends, family and especially big hugs to all who buy the book…lol..!

Lynda xx

Morton Gray and ‘2nd book syndrome’

morton orange

Second Book Syndrome

Will they like it? What if they hate it? Will it receive such good reviews as Book 1? Am I a one book wonder?

When Lynda asked me to write a blog post about ‘the second book’ these were the questions that bubbled to the surface.

I’ve been e-published with The Girl on the Beach for over a year now and that book has just been issued as a paperback. I’ve had 72 lovely reviews for that story and, like Lynda’s first book, it won Choc Lit Publishing’s Search for a Star competition. As a very modest, shy person this made me think that the story must be okay. Lol.

My second novel, The Truth Lies Buried is e-published on 1 May 2018. I’m hoping that this one becomes a paperback in time too, but second book nerves have already begun to gather and doubt crows to circle.

Thankfully, the way that Choc Lit works is slightly different to many publishers. When you submit a book for consideration it is sent to a panel of readers and the author only gets a contract if these readers return favourable comments.

Also in common with Lynda, this second book was written before my first published novel. It was started at a writing workshop at the Romantic Novelists’ Association conference in 2011 run by author Linda Gillard. Its first chapter (now chapter three) was shortlisted for the former Festival of Romance New Talent Award. Co-incidentally, that was the first occasion when I met Lynda too, as she was also shortlisted.

I came to the conclusion that it wouldn’t matter if it was book two, three, four, or beyond a writer is bound to have a certain amount of trepidation when releasing a book into the world. So, I will take a deep breath, cross my fingers and hope that people enjoy my new story when it is published on 1 May. Wish me luck …

 

BENEATH THE LIES_FRONT_150dpi_RGB

About The Truth Lies Buried

Two children in a police waiting room, two distressed mothers, a memory only half remembered …

When Jenny Simpson returns to the seaside town of Borteen, her childhood home, it’s for a less than happy reason. But it’s also a chance for her to start again.

A new job leads to her working for Carver Rodgers, a man who lives alone in a house that looks like it comes from the pages of a fairy tale – until you see the disaster zone inside …

 

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As Jenny gets to know Carver she begins to unravel the sadness that has led to his chaotic existence. Gradually they realise they have something in common that is impossible to ignore – and it all links back to a meeting at a police station many years before.

Could the truth lie just beneath their feet?

 

 

About Morton S. Gray

Morton lives with her husband, two sons and Lily, the tiny white dog, in Worcestershire, U.K. She has been reading and writing fiction for as long as she can remember, penning her first attempt at a novel aged fourteen. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Society of Authors.

Her debut novel The Girl on the Beach was e-published in January 2017, after she won Choc Lit Publishing Search for a Star competition. The story follows a woman with a troubled past as she tries to unravel the mystery surrounding her son’s headteacher, Harry Dixon. This book is available as a paperback from 10 April 2018.

Morton’s second book for Choc Lit The Truth Lies Buried is published as an e-book on 1 May 2018. Another romantic suspense novel, the book tells the story of Jenny Simpson and Carver Rodgers as they uncover secrets from their past.

Morton previously worked in the electricity industry in committee services, staff development and training. She has a Business Studies degree and is a fully qualified clinical hypnotherapist and Reiki Master. She also has diplomas in Tuina acupressure massage and energy field therapy. She enjoys crafts, history and loves tracing family trees. Having a hunger for learning new things is a bonus for the research behind her books.

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You can catch up with Morton on her website www.mortonsgray.com, on Twitter – @MortonSGray, her Facebook page – Morton S. Gray Author – https://www.facebook.com/mortonsgray/ and

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/morton_s_gray/

 

Pre-order link for The Truth Lies Buried at http://www.choc-lit.com/dd-product/the-truth-lies-buried/ or http://getbook.at/TheTruthLiesBuried

 

Purchasing links for The Girl on the Beach at http://www.choc-lit.com/dd-product/the-girl-on-the-beach/ or http://mybook.to/TheGirlontheBeachbook

 

Rachel Dove talks about her new novel, ‘THE LONG WALK BACK..!’

The Long Walk Back

Here’s the blurb..!!

Does everyone deserve a second chance?

As an army trauma surgeon Kate knows how to keep her cool in the most high pressure of situations. Although back at home in England her marriage is falling apart, out in the desert she’s happy knowing that she’s saving lives.
Until she meets Cooper. It’s up to Kate to make a split-second decision to save Cooper’s life. Yet Cooper doesn’t want to be saved. Can Kate convince him to give his life a second chance even though its turning out dramatically different from how he planned?

cream-tea

Good morning Rachel, thank you for joining me for tea and scones and could I just say, congratulations on the release of your fantastic new book. I’ve already read the advanced copy that you sent me and all I can say is, WOW, your readers are in for a REAL treat…!! What an amazing book…!!

I just have one or two questions to ask, as I’m sure your readers will love to hear your answers..!!

1. I know you’ve wanted to write this book for a long time, so… what was your inspiration for The Long Walk Back?

In today’s political climate, I was always struck by the personal stories behind the war, and a story started to form. If I hadn’t gone into education and writing, I think I would have gone into medicine, as it has always intrigued me and I love medical dramas and reading journals etc. Part of my teaching job involves healthcare dealing with autism etc, and having two children with additional needs means that I always keep abreast of developments. One day, I had a notion of a wounded soldier, and it grew from there.

2. How and when do you find time to write?

I write every day, even if it’s just editing, researching or scribbling details down. I work every single day in some capacity, and I get antsy if I don’t. I write when the kids are at school normally, and when they are still in bed on a morning or late at night. I have been known to write in my car or at the side of a football pitch too, whenever I get chance really. I make time, although now I work from home full time it’s a lot easier. People who work full time and still write a book a year are my heroes. I couldn’t do it!

3. Which character in The Long Walk Back is your favourite?

Cooper without a doubt. I normally identify with my female characters more, but Cooper is a stubborn, sexy, pig headed alpha mate with a soft heart. I love him very much as a character.

4. Are any of the characters based on anyone you know?

Grace and Marlene, two of the lovely ladies from The Chic Boutique on Baker Street are real people, my grandmothers, but other than that, no not really. I try to create completely new people.

5. Do you ever become attached to your characters and have a hard time letting go of them. Or, are you happy to let them go and move onto the next project?

Yes, definitely! Cooper is very special to me, and I could have written him forever. I am currently writing the last book in the Westfield series, and I will be very sorry to say goodbye to the village and its characters.

6. Which comes first, the story, the characters or the setting?

Tricky, because it has been different for some of my books, but I definitely think characters are what comes to mind first. They have to be fully formed in my head before I write, and I use character profiles to keep track of them.

7. How long does it take you to write a book and what sort of research do you do?

On average from start to finish from idea to first draft I would say about 6 months, I have books planned which I haven’t started working on yet, but they will be percolating away in the background. I research by going to places, asking professionals, reading books, and talking to people who have been in similar situations. For The Long Walk Back I did the most research, in terms of medical conditions, dosages of medicines, asking professionals for advice. I wanted to get the story right and not glorify war or one side over the other. That’s not what the book is about.

8. What part of writing a novel do you find most challenging?

Deadlines! I am a terrible one for thinking ‘ah, it’ll be fine’ and playing around with things when really I should be applying bottom to chair and hammering the words out. I need to work on my self editing and do this better in 2018, although with deadlines I generally hit them give or take a few days! School holidays knock my work out of whack as we don’t pay for childcare now, and made a pact never to again for the sake of our boys.

9. Can you described the moment when you realised you were a ‘real’ author?

That’s a tricky one, as there have been many amazing things happening in the last couple of years. Stephen King says “If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn’t bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.”

I got my first check for a magazine readers letter a good few years ago,  after learning about them on an assignment with my writing course with the Writers Bureau, and I still have the letter. I never stopped, and now I have a folder full of letters like that. Writing is not about money, but the first acceptance does spur you on to the next. The best part for me now is saying ‘I am a writer’ proudly when someone asks what I do, rather than just saying teacher. I have my two dream jobs.

10. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Read. Read about what is selling, read about the world, and devour books. Devour every genre you can stomach, and find out what you love, what speaks to you, and what makes you happy. Enter competitions too, and take that shot. I always enter competitions even now, because without them, I might never have been published. The practice alone is worth the fear!

long walk back cover

If you would like to read ‘THE LONG WALK BACK’ here’s the buying link:

http://mybook.to/thelongwalkback

 

Review of The Perfectly Imperfect Woman by Milly Johnson

Definitely a FIVE STAR read….!!

THE PERFECTLY IMPERFECT WOMAN

This book is amazing and this author is absolutely fantastic. .I haven’t read one book by her that I haven’t loved.

The lead character, Marnier is well drawn. Her character is just a little vulnerable with just enough attitude to get her through life. On every turn of the page I was rooting for her. I really wanted her to succeed and more than that, I really wanted her to find love. I found the two elderly ladies in the book just wonderful. First we had Mrs McMaid, an elderly lady that comes into Marnier’s life at a young age, and then Lillian who she meets much later. Both ladies have very loving and nurturing qualities and Milly Johnson really brings each one to life on the page. Then…. well then we meet the hero. I don’t want to say too much for fear of giving spoilers, but all I can say is ‘wow’ he’s looooovely. He too has his own conflicts, but he’s very well drawn and you can’t help but hope that this book has a happy ending for them both.

Would I recommend this book…. OH YES… very much so…!!

Available for pre-order… Here’s the buying link….

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Perfectly-Imperfect-Woman-Milly-Johnson/dp/1471161773/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1515097654&sr=1-1&keywords=the+perfectly+imperfect+woman

The new release of ‘Silent Night’, by Wendy Clarke

 

Today I’m talking to Wendy Clarke as she releases her Christmas short story collection, Silent Night. I asked Wendy to tell me all about her hero’s and heroines..!

Silent Night - kindle cover

 

Here’s what Wendy had to say…

Christmas Through the Eyes of Someone Else

 

What’s the perfect Christmas? It could be spending time with family and friends or having a quiet time in front of the TV with a box of Cadbury’s Roses and a Christmas Special of Only fools and Horses. Maybe it’s none of these but the chance to jet off to somewhere warmer and leave behind the hubbub of the festive season. Whatever your idea of the perfect Christmas, it’s sometimes nice to view this special time through the eyes of someone else.

‘Silent Night’, my collection of short stories previously published in national women’s magazines, has an assortment of main protagonists: male, female, old and young. It has been an adventure experiencing different Christmases through these thirteen characters’ eyes and It’s one I’d like to share with you.

Let’s start with the male POVs. The first character I’d like to introduce you to is Andrew from the story ‘Project Christmas’. There is no excitement for this young man in the lead up to the big day, just sadness, as the previous year he lost his wife. He wants to make Christmas for his children one that Paula would be proud of but it’s not an easy task. The hardest thing when writing this story was getting the level of emotion right – too much and it would become maudlin, too little and Andrew would appear uncaring. I hope I managed to get the balance right. How he copes at this difficult time, is by viewing Christmas as a project but will he succeed in making his children happy?

‘Is everything okay, Andrew?’ his sister asked. ‘Where are the children?’

Andrew stared dejectedly into his beer. ‘I sent them upstairs. They kept trying to help but you can see what happened.’ He swept an arm around the room in explanation.

‘I see.’

‘I thought I could do it, Beth, but I can’t.’

 

Another young man whose Christmas is about to change, is John from the story, ‘A Christmas Present Called, Abbie’. Estranged from his wife, John has reverted to bachelorhood and his Christmases usually involve a pint or two with his mates. Not this year. This year, he is going to have to look after his young daughter Abbie while her mother is in hospital. Will seeing Christmas through the eyes of a seven-year-old help him to grow up?

‘Where’s the tree?’

I broke from my thoughts and looked at Abbie, standing in the bay window, staring out into the street.

‘It should be here.’ She spread her arms wide. Her stare accusing.

‘I don’t have a tree.’

‘Why not? It’s Christmas.’ Abbie folded her arms and waited for my answer.

 

A particular favourite of mine is rock musician, Callum, from ‘A song for Christmas’. To him, everything is a joke but his girlfriend doesn’t think that playing the fool makes Cal a good role model for her young son, Ben. Finding himself unexpectedly on his own, and with a tour coming up, Callum is finding Christmas a dismal prospect. But a sense of humour is important – especially to a little boy who has fallen ill.

 

Chris did a drum roll that was so loud I jumped.

‘What’s up?’ he said. ‘You’ve looked like a wet weekend… all wet weekend.’

I strummed my fingers across the strings of my guitar and stared out of the window at the rain that continued to fall from the December sky. The fields outside my house were as grey as my mood.

‘Nothing’s up.’

‘Come on, Callum. We need to lighten the mood. Arm wrestle? Bubble gum blowing competition? Pin the tail on the sound recordist?’

I tried to smile but my heart wasn’t in it.

 

Let’s move on now to the female protagonists. For my first example, I’ve chosen Bella from the story, ‘On My Own’. In this story, my protagonist is fed up with her Christmases being organised with military precision by her husband. Tired of always being the one to fit in with other’s arrangements, she decides to carry out her threat to spend Christmas in the coastal cottage she’s seen advertised in a magazine. When her husband refuses to come with her, she goes anyway. I wanted to see how Beth would grow when she broke out of the claustrophobic constraints of her marriage and the result surprised me!

 

I add the tinsel to the branches and do my best with the lights. Without Ryan’s precise input, or anything suitable to stand on, the strings of bulbs are rather bunched up and when I switch them on, they remain stubbornly unlit. The wind whines in the chimney and rattles at the sash windows. Looking at the angel leaning tipsily from the top branch of the tree, I discard the rest of my tea and open the Chablis instead.

 

My final example is from the story, ‘Do You Believe in angels’. The style of this story is more like a folk tale and is written from the point of view of a girl who lives in a cottage in a wood with her grandparents while her father is away fighting in the trenches. She longs for a tree with an angel but her grandfather has other ideas.

 

Where there should be an angel, there is only a branch of pointed fir. Her grandfather had told her that all angels were needed to look after the young men on the battlefields.

‘When will father come?’ she asks.

Her grandfather’s eyes narrow and her grandmother touches a finger to her lips. ‘Hush child,” she says, drawing her close so that the brooch at her throat presses against her cheek. ‘Hush.’

 

So now, you too have seen a little of Christmas through some of my characters’ eyes. There are nine other protagonists in my collection and I hope this has left you wanting to see Christmas through their eyes too.

 Wendy Clarke

Wendy Clarke – Biography

Wendy Clarke is a writer of women’s fiction. Her work regularly appears in national women’s magazines such as The People’s Friend, Take a Break Fiction Feast and Woman’s Weekly. She has also written serials and a number of non-fiction magazine articles.

Wendy has published two collections of short stories, Room in Your Heart and The Last Rose and has just finished writing her second novel.

Wendy lives with her husband, cat and step-dog in Sussex and when not writing is usually dancing, singing or watching any programme that involves food!

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